(FILES) This file photo taken on July 12, 2007 shows the first Eurofighter (C) bought by Austria flies over, escorted by two US-made F-5 jetfighters, at Zeltweg air base, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Vienna.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus on February 9 said it had agreed to pay a fine of 81.25 million euros ($99 million) to end a German corruption probe into the 2003 sale of Eurofighter jets to Austria. / AFP PHOTO / DIETER NAGLDIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images
© AFP

FRANKFURT, Feb 9 — German prosecutors have ordered Airbus to pay €81.25m to settle one of two investigations into alleged corruption surrounding the sale of Eurofighter combat jets to Austria in 2003, the two sides said on Friday.

The settlement includes an administrative fine of €250,000 and disgorgement — which legal experts broadly define as the recovery of ill-gotten gains — of €81m.

Munich prosecutors have been investigating whether Airbus issued bribes to win the $2bn contract, charges it denies.

In a statement, prosecutors said they had not found evidence of bribery but that Airbus had been unable to account for more than €100m in payments to two shell companies.

EADS, as the main Airbus parent group was known at the time, sent funds totalling a triple-digit-million euro amount to Vector Aerospace and City Chambers, they added.

Most of these funds, by evading internal control mechanisms, had been used for what the prosecutors said were “unclear purposes”, adding it could not be finally determined what the funds had been spent on.

Airbus said in a statement that the penalty, which it had agreed to pay, related to the “negligent breach of supervisory duties” by unidentified members of Airbus Defence and Space’s former management.

The former managers failed to ensure proper controls that would have prevented payments to “business partners” without the company getting proven services in exchange.

Airbus regularly uses the term “business partners” to refer to foreign sales agents or intermediaries.

It is being investigated separately in France and Britain over the handling of agents in the sale of commercial jets.

While Friday’s settlement ends the Munich investigation, Airbus and individuals including chief executive Tom Enders, who headed the company’s defence business from 2000 to 2005, are under investigation in Vienna into the Eurofighter deal.

Airbus and Enders have denied wrongdoing and accused the Austrian government of playing politics with the investigation.

Engine snag halts Airbus deliveries

Airbus has stopped delivering A320neo jets powered by Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engines and halted pre-delivery test flights after the latest technical hitch to affect the supplier, two sources familiar with the matter said.

A European safety bulletin, effectively grounding aircraft that have already been delivered with two engines from the same suspect batch, affects about 15-20 aircraft already in service, they said.

Airbus has briefed airlines and leasing companies on the problem and cannot yet say how long it will take to resolve, one of the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

An Airbus spokesman said the plane maker is “in discussions with customers about delivery schedules.”

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